Spotlight Interview … Photojournalist Ami Vitale 2010

JRP: It was April 2008 that I had the pleasure of interviewing Ami Vitale for JRP Blog. ( It is an honor to welcome her back to update us on her work.

Ami, thank you for this opportunity to talk with you again. It has been a while, what projects have you worked on since we last talked over a year ago?

Ami Vitale: Hello James. I’ve been very busy in the last year. I spent the previous year traveling for the Nature Conservancy documenting remote environments from Australia to Micronesia,  the Marshall Islands,  Alaska, Bolivia, Costa Rica and 5 other locations around the globe. The exhibit and book launched in May at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York and is traveling for the next five years.  The images were printed on huge mural sized cut-outs of aluminum and I have to say its a stunning display of these magnificent places and people.

I am also giving workshops in India and working on documentary projects for National Geographic, MSNBC and the Nature Conservancy, among others.

In April, I was asked to produce a video for the launch of Nikons’ new camera, the D300S that took me back to India for an incredible journey. You can see it here.

Lastly, I was awarded a grant to get my graduate degree and become the Senior Producer of Multimedia at the Knight Center for International Media at the University of Miami. I’m thrilled to be here and we are producing several powerful documentary projects around the world that address social, environmental and human rights issues.

JRP: What unique circumstances besides the world economy drive the way you approach your photography today?

Ami Vitale: While it’s a difficult time for many as the print world is struggling, I’m looking at this as an important opportunity to embrace all the tools that are changing the way we work. I’m learning film and multimedia and looking for unique ways to tell stories. I believe it is a wonderful time to be in this business. We can reach audiences we never dreamt of reaching, we can tell stories in very compelling ways and we are connecting to people who can promote the changes we need to make this world a better place.

JRP: Much has been made of the newer cameras which offer video as well as improved still capabilities. Do they play a role yet in your work, and if so how?

Ami Vitale: Absolutely ….  look at the video link I  included above. All of the work I do now includes a video element along with the stills. Having these cameras that do both allows me to seamlessly switch back and forth and create material for different mediums.

JRP: Could you name three photographers who inspire you at this stage of your career and why.

Ami Vitale: Ed Kashi, Maggie Steber and Pablo Corral.

Ed Kashir has told meaningful, compelling stories for a long time using video and stills. He is one of the most progressive photographers out there working in multiple mediums.

Maggie Steber is one of the most powerful, unique voices out there. She is a force of nature; eloquent, poetic and strong. The commitment she shows to her subjects and the compassion she has towards people is something to behold. Anyone who has had the chance to meet her will understand immediately why her images are so moving. Her spirit and commitment is genuine, selfless and inspiring. She is perhaps one of the best living photographers and inspires everyone in her orbit. She is back in Haiti now where she has spent the better part of twenty years working. She shows another side this troubled country and reminds us all that the human spirit endures.

Pablo Corral’s work is pure poetry. He is another one of the most inspiring photographers I have ever had the privilege of knowing. He also works on promoting other photographers and just created a gorgeous website for many of Latin America’s best photographers.

What makes these photographers so special is their compassion and commitment to the people in their stories. They care so much about their subjects and the viewer can sense that in all their work. It’s not about them, it’s always about the people in their images.

JRP: If there was one of your images you could “do over” which one would it be and why?

Ami Vitale: I can’t say that I have one image that I wish I could do over. I look towards the next opportunity to constantly improve my craft. There are incredible things and moments every day that I have not captured on my camera but I look forward to tomorrow and go out and try again. I don’t look back at what I’ve missed because it’s not just about creating beautiful images, it’s about telling meaningful stories and that takes time and patience. It’s not about the perfect one image…. its something much more nuanced than that for me.

JRP: Any special projects in the works yet for 2010?

Ami Vitale: Yes, as I mentioned, I am the Senior producer at the Knight Center for International Media and I am working on several multimedia projects around the world. We are collaborating with seven universities in Asia and Africa and I’ll be travelling there to create documentaries and working with an amazing team this year to produce the work.

JRP: Ami, thanks for sharing your thoughts and photography with us. Once again it has been a pleasure and inspiration for me and your many fans.

To see more of what Ami Vitale has been up to just follow these links:


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